Samsung’s SAMI: A promising step for mobile health wearables

Samsung this week unveiled a “modular reference wristband design” dubbed Simband, as my colleague Stacey Higginbotham documented, as well as outlining plans to create an open platform for an entire ecosystem of healthcare-related devices and services in the cloud. The Simband, which is still in prototype form, could contain a variety of sensors to track data like heart rates, nutritional intake, glucose levels and sleep patters, based on the requests of the user, storing the information in the cloud. SAMI, the cloud-based platform slated to launch later this year, would serve as the brain of the ecosystem and would be openly accessible to developers and device manufacturers.

The bold strategy could solve a couple of big problems that have shackled the market for health-related wearables in its early days. The first wave of gadgets has consisted of niche devices that might track, say, fitness and sleep activities, but aren’t designed to glean a variety of information from the user. And storing information in the cloud would make it easy for healthcare providers to access it with the consent of the user. Additionally, a major open platform should spur the development of all sorts of devices and services from a broad swath of developers and manufacturers.

Mobile healthcare still faces huge challenges, as Higginbotham notes: Regulatory agencies such as the FDA are already struggling mightily to address the nascent market, complicated business models have yet to be built and major questions remain regarding security and insurance issues. Those hurdles will take some time to overcome, so we’re at least several years away from seeing any major mobile healthcare ecosystem emerge. But SAMI appears to be a big step in what is sure to be a very long slog.